It’s almost Christmas and perhaps you have started the feasting already. Well, for heaven’s sake, don’t stop now! Join us for our weekly Monks Brunch!
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BYE BYE NET NEUTRALITY
One of the big news stories of the week was when the FCC voted on Thursday to repeal Obama-era internet neutrality rules. A story in the NY Times lays out the arguments of both proponents and opponents of the decision.
This is what you should be scared of, according to the decision’s opponents:
- Broadband providers could begin selling the internet in bundles, not unlike how cable television is sold today.
- Consumers could suffer at the hands of those who can afford to pay more. Big internet and media companies, as well as affluent households could move in a “fast lane,” while everyone else would be in the “slow lane.”
- Small businesses worry that industry giants could pay to get an edge too. Remote workers and freelancers fear having to pay much higher costs.
This is why, according to repeal’s proponents, the move will be better in the long run:
- They argue that before the regulations were put into effect in 2015, service providers had not engaged in any of the practices the rules prohibit.
- “Several internet providers have made public pledges in recent months that they will not block or throttle sites once the rules were repealed. The companies argue that Title II gives the F.C.C. too much control over their business, and that the regulations make it hard to expand their networks.”
A third group argues that a free and open internet is pretty much already a dying project, since a few giant American companies control most of the online infrastructure and there are only a handful of broadband companies that are seeking to become content companies as well.
What do you think?
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REST IN PEACE, R.C. SPROUL
I’m pretty hard on Reformed types around here, but that’s not to say that they haven’t had much positive impact on my life at various points along the road. Like Michael Spencer before me, people in the Reformed branches of the church proved to be among the guides that led me out of revivalistic and church growth style evangelicalism, challenging me to a more intellectually bracing faith with a measure of historical depth and a more creational perspective.
One of those guides for me was R.C. Sproul. Though I always felt his books were overly philosophical and theologically rather than biblically oriented, and not as pastorally sensitive as I like, he was a teacher that captured the attention and invigorated the mind. That this emphasis was front and center for him could be seen in the name of his radio broadcast, “Renewing the Mind.” Probably my favorite book of his and the one that had the most impact on me was The Holiness of God.
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A SERIOUS ALARM ABOUT THE FARM
Dr. Mike Rosmann is an Iowa farmer and also a psychologist and an expert on the behavioral health of farmers. For 40 years, he has worked to understand why farmers take their lives at such alarming rates – currently, higher rates than any other occupation in the United States.
The Guardian reports these alarming facts:
Last year, a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that people working in agriculture – including farmers, farm laborers, ranchers, fishers, and lumber harvesters – take their lives at a rate higher than any other occupation. The data suggested that the suicide rate for agricultural workers in 17 states was nearly five times higher compared with that in the general population.
After the study was released, Newsweek reported that the suicide death rate for farmers was more than double that of military veterans. This, however, could be an underestimate, as the data collected skipped several major agricultural states, including Iowa. Rosmann and other experts add that the farmer suicide rate might be higher, because an unknown number of farmers disguise their suicides as farm accidents.
The US farmer suicide crisis echoes a much larger farmer suicide crisis happening globally: an Australian farmer dies by suicide every four days; in the UK, one farmer a week takes his or her own life; in France, one farmer dies by suicide every two days; in India, more than 270,000 farmers have died by suicide since 1995.
I encourage you to read this fearsome and fascinating article, to pray about this public health crisis, and to give thanks for people like Dr. Mike Rossman, whose efforts to provide lasting means of help are documented in this piece.
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In the light of what Tom Krattenmaker calls the “sex panic” that is upon us these days, he says at RNS, “It’s Time for a Sexual Counterrevolution.” He writes:
Amid the current wreckage, is it time to declare the half-century-old sexual revolution a mistake? Do we need to go back to the more restrictive sex culture of old?
That would be neither feasible nor desirable. But it clearly is time for a sexual counterrevolution, to restore what was healthy and well-intended in the original revolution and excise the malignancies that have shown up lately in the personages of Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and many others, not to mention the everyday workplace occurrences of men harassing the women they work with and supervise.
You can read some of his suggestions, but I’d like to have a conversation around the table about this. So, discuss: What would a healthy sexual counter-revolution look like?
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HOPE YOU MADE IT THROUGH YOUR DECORATING OKAY
Did you know that about 240 people a day go to the emergency room after falling off ladders, getting cut, or getting burned when trying to put up their holiday decorations?
On NPR’s All Things Considered, hosts Robert Siegel and Kelly McEvers interviewed one of the “victims” — extreme decorator Kurt Farmer. Here is an excerpt:
MCEVERS: It happened two years ago. He was putting some finishing touches on the extravaganza when he saw it – an off-kilter candy cane on the edge of his roof. He was in a rush to get to work, but he had to fix it. Kurt Farmer took one bad step and fell from his roof to the concrete below.
FARMER: I shattered my pelvis. Somehow I came down 15 feet and landed literally on my right leg – shattered that into 32 pieces and then collapsed and landed on my rotator cuff and shattered that.
SIEGEL: It took several surgeries and nine months of rehab to recover. The next Christmas, he was back at it with the lights and the inflatables.
MCEVERS: Farmer says he’s in pain every day. He has found ways to make decorating easier, though, like using a mechanical lift.
FARMER: I added another 10,000 lights on my tree this year because I could go so much higher. I had never been that high before because I was doing everything off a ladder.
SIEGEL: He’s also more careful, he says, and more deliberate when he puts up his decorations. One holiday in the hospital was enough.
FARMER: Take your time. And patience is always a virtue because it’s not worth what might happen to take the extra 30 seconds to do it the right way.
MCEVERS: Good advice from Kurt Farmer, extreme Christmas decorator of Alexandria, Va.
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OK, THIS IS JUST PLAIN WEIRD
From NPR: Simon Bramhall, 53, has pleaded guilty to assault of two patients, for, yes, branding his initials onto their organs during surgery. He is going to be sentenced on Jan. 12.
The Associated Press reports that a prosecutor called the case “without legal precedent in criminal law.”
“Bramhall used an argon beam coagulator, which seals bleeding blood vessels with an electric beam, to mark his initials on the organs,” the AP writes.
The internal graffiti very likely did not cause any damage, The Guardian reports: “The marks left by argon are not thought to impair the organ’s function and usually disappear by themselves.”
But in one patient, Bramhall’s brand did not heal over. Another surgeon conducting a follow-up surgery discovered the letters S and B etched into the man’s organ. An investigation discovered that Bramhall had branded a female patient’s liver as well.
In case you were curious, there were other medical professionals present as Bramhall branded his name on those livers, the BBC reports. It was not an isolated incident, prosecutors said.
Bramhall’s misdeeds were uncovered in 2013. (In early 2014 they inspired a lighthearted post in Marketing Week on effective branding — get it, branding? — because the world is objectively terrible.)
As he tendered his resignation in 2014, Bramhall said — and we promise we are not making this up; this is what an actual, once well-regarded surgeon said after burning his initials into human livers — “It is a bit raw.”
“I have to move on.”
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HOW ABOUT SOME FUN CHRISTMAS PHOTOS? (from The Atlantic)
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THIS WEEK’S ADVENT/CHRISTMAS MUSIC
One of my favorite albums I listen to year after year is Bruce Cockburn’s Christmas. Today, I invite you to enjoy his rollicking rendition of “Early On One Christmas Morn.”